This evening, a couple of capoeiristas (practitioners of Capoeira) from my group went to do some training at our usual spot, a local gymnastics gym. (If you’ve never been to one, I would recommend you go if you’re able). Our mestre (master) gave us a hiatus for the week of Christmas and the following week of New Year’s, but he also encouraged us to use the facilities at the gym for supplementary training. When I received a call from one of my buddies informing me that training was going down, I immediately decided to jump on it, especially since I neglected to exercise during Christmas week. In addition, I kinda felt guilty about pigging out during Christmas week. I’m not a big fan of Christmas, but man do I love the food that accompanies it :)!
Though the break was much needed (I had injured my left wrist and my right ankle), I was still a little apprehensive when I walked into the gym: long reprieves of inactivity take their toll on my performance. (I suppose everyone is like that to some degree). But after warming up and performing some stretching routines, I was good to go. We started performing back flips and in the beginning I was a little rusty. My buddy, the one who called me, gave me some encouragement and instruction and after while I was busting back flips like nobody’s business. Mind you, my flips are still not perfect, but I’m working on it. The largest room in the world is the room for improvement. Insha’Allah I’ll perfect them one day.
This whole ordeal got me thinking about our life’s journey, believe it or not. Subhan’Allah, the journeys we embark on during our lives are simply amazing, even trivial ones such as the journey to perform a back flip. We have the similitude of our mother the Earth: just like it takes time, effort, and patience to cultivate soil such that it will bear fruit, so too must our nafs (the self, the body-soul, sans duality) be cultivated with time, effort, and patience. For example, doing a back flip takes time: you’ve got to strengthen your quads and your gluts in order to jump high enough and you’ve got to strengthen your abs since they help provide the necessary rotation. And guess what? Even with that training, chances are you’re not gonna get it right the first time or the second time or the third time even. You’ll fall on your face; you’ll land incorrectly and hurt your ankles; but that’s where patience comes in. You just gotta keep going.
Now, somehow I doubt perfecting our adab (character or behavior) or surrendering our nafs to Divine Intent would be as straight forward as doing a back flip. I can imagine, however, that the process would entail lots of prayer, meditation, reading, reflection, dkhir (remembrance of God), and finally, application and actualization of any insight gained from the aforementioned. I remembering reading in a book–I think it was Nietzsche‘s Beyond Good and Evil–that “philosophers, by definition (philosopher means a “lover of wisdom”), must lead by example.” As Muslims, as a emissaries for the Prophet and as khalifah (vicegerent, someone who succeeds or acts in the stead of somebody else) of Allah, we should, by definition, lead by example. The example we are to set, however, is an onerous one. We’ll fail; we’ll screw up; we’ll fall short of our ideals; but we must keep trying, keep striving for the horizon. “Endure, my heart,” spoke Odysseus, “you have endured worse than this.” It’s the effort, the trial, the journey that matters most. The journey is always more important than the destination…
“Mankind,” says Allah in the Sublime Qur’an, “is created of haste.” How true is this! We want things now, instant gratification. Yet, if we were to just submit ourselves to this particular aspect of our earthly being, then we could learn a great deal. I think about like this: there’s a reason why God didn’t just will existence into being in a single instant, even though He could have done so, being omnipotent and all. Whenever we hear about the nascent of Creation, there’s always a time element involved, six yawm (usually rendered as “day” but sometimes as “eon,” as in any length of time). Perhaps there’s a deeper wisdom behind Allah choosing to create in such a manner. Perhaps there’s a deeper wisdom behind us human beings being composed of earth. Allahu’Alim.
To think this insight came from doing back flips! Subhan’Allah! Wisdom can be found in all corners of this creation, from the most humble to the most grandiose, from the gnat to the rotating celestial bodies. Maybe we just have to be patience and keen enough to find it.